Delayed Pennine schemes ‘still in RIS’, despite £72m cost rise

A package of transpennine upgrade schemes from Highways England has seen a £72m increase in costs, while further preparatory work still needs to be done on two of the schemes.

Highways England has told Highways it is still committed to carrying the projects under the current Road Investment Strategy (RIS), though more work needs to be done on two schemes within the package of five.

Although the RIS included a £170m investment package for transpennine routes consisting of five schemes, Highways England’s preferred route announcement last week only included three of the schemes, plus improvements to a roundabout on the route, and disclosed for the first time an overall cost of £242m.

However, a spokesman for the Government-owned company told Highways that it remained committed to completing two schemes that it said last week would be subject to further work and hoped to start them with the current RIS period, adding that they are funded within the new £242m figure.

The two schemes being sent back to the drawing board are climbing lanes on the A628 and a proposal to dual the A61 between Westwood roundabout and the M1.

Last week’s announcement stated that plans for the climbing lanes were ‘being considered further following the recent consultation’, and that further work would be done ‘to refine options for the dualling of the A61’, with improvements to the Westwood roundabout in the meantime.

The climbing lanes plans proved popular in the consultation earlier this year, in which a majority of respondents (63%) either strongly agreed or agreed that they would reduce collisions, improve journey times and have a major positive impact on safety.

Despite Highways England announcing recently that it was ‘re-profiling’ the current RIS against a background of a projected cash shortfall, the spokesman insisted that the delay on the two schemes was ‘absolutely nothing to do with costs’, but was ‘all about further investigations into the best designs for each of the elements’.

The schemes taken forward are a new link from the M67 terminal roundabout to a new junction at A57(T) Mottram and a link from there to a new junction on the A57 at Brookfield, as well as a package of safety and technology improvements focused on addressing accident clusters.

At the time of last week’s announcement, Tim Gamon, Highways England’s regional delivery director for the North West, said: ‘Most people felt these improvements struck a good balance in terms of convenience for drivers, reduced impact on local communities and improved safety. So we will present them in a statutory consultation next year with a plan to start construction in early 2020.’

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